In my head, my last assignment at Orangebloods.com is covering a national championship baseball team in Omaha. I’m smiling as I’m typing a championship column from the TD Ameritrade press box. And you know what? It could happen.
Yeah, this is a column about me. Dear diary, deal with it. Save it, Paul.
I tried to find an easy way to do this. When Ketch called me for our second conversation after I told him another offer came up, I joked I was conveniently near a CBD store because my anxiety was kicking in. We had a great talk. I knew we would because our bond goes way, way beyond a professional relationship. Heck, I don’t need to explain it because y’all have seen it in action countless times on this forum. The man has a huge heart. Thankfully, at my request, he kept the Godfather offer in his back pocket, preventing an excruciating decision from being even tougher on my already nervous heart and squeamish gut.
Yesterday morning, I searched for something, anything to make my fingers fly around the keyboard and type my Wednesday column, one of my last at Orangebloods.com. Well, at least for the foreseeable future because you never say never. Heck, I even watched the final episode of The Wire, Jimmy McNulty’s wake, hoping to find some inspiration from my favorite television show. Trust me when I say this: writing this is harder than you think. Much harder. And that reason is y’all. This community is truly special… even if there have been countless days in the past when I wanted to meet many of you at Wachovia.
Fortunately, I’ll still be around until Rivals.com screws up my comp and I have to send Suchomel an angry text. No, I’m not going to be covering the Longhorns for a competitor. You’re not going to receive any e-mails from be begging you to subscribe elsewhere. I’m OB for Life (Hollywood Hogan voice). When you put in 15 years of work, you get to subscribe for free. Hopefully. C’mon, hamsters.
So, yeah, I’ll be around some because when you leave on good terms, you’re forever part of a truly special community. I just won’t be a mod, a writer, a reporter and a columnist. I won’t be at a press conference asking a Texas basketball coach about offense or a baseball coach about bunting. I won’t have ‘Staff Writer’ in my signature. I won’t be dropping hints about where a high school basketball player is leaning and who Texas will hire as a pitching coach if Rice hires Sean Allen. And I won’t be explaining why the coach you want fired isn’t actually going to get fired.
Well, maybe I will. Y’all like the message board insiders more than the mods anyway. I don’t know. I don’t know because Orangebloods.com is all I’ve known as a professional. I’ve worked here in some capacity for 15 years. 15!!! My daily routine has included this message board since 2004 when a best friend, @longhorn34, introduced me to the website during my first year at Texas. The Michael Goodson recruitment hooked me because I spent hours before football games at his house playing Madden in high school. Mike is a good dude. I’d like to think my terrible blocking contributed to his elite recruit status. Besides a couple of entertaining years making $9 an hour producing sports radio, and years as an associate scout – which didn’t require me to do anything I wasn’t already doing besides maybe a high school game here or there – for the Pirates and Dodgers, being a writer and reporter at Orangebloods.com is all I’ve known. I’ve never held another job.
I only came close to leaving Orangebloods one other time when I was a finalist for a scouting job with the Seattle Mariners. Sure, there were other offers, none of them seriously considered. Genuinely, I thought the Mariners were going to hire me after an intense and lengthy interview process. It was the second year in a row they interviewed me so I must not have sucked that bad the first time. Who knows where I’d be now? I was this close.
Since high school, when I began to understand being a professional baseball player wasn’t realistic, I decided my dream was to be a general manager. Theo Epstein was my idol. Professional baseball is a really hard thing to crack if you’re not already in the circle, though. I want to chase that again. Maybe it’s scouting; maybe it’s working on a college staff; maybe it’s coaching; maybe it’s becoming the go-to authority for high school baseball evaluations and coverage, which is the opportunity waiting in the present. I want to be involved in the game daily, which is what I’m set to do.
As I’ve grown older, matured, and learned so much more about baseball, my dream, generally speaking, is still the same. I received my start at Orangebloods.com covering the baseball program because even though I wasn’t a journalism major and basically taught myself almost everything about being a writer and reporter, I wrote well enough to present readers a unique view. It’s embarrassing now to think of some of the things I wrote and not knowing I could apply for a press credential for baseball. Yeah, that happened. I was a fish out of water. However, my knowledge and passion for the game showed in my writing even if it wasn’t the cleanest copy Orangebloods has seen. It still isn’t. Sorry. There is an error in this column somewhere.
Eventually, I just kept saying ‘yes’ to each assignment tossed my way and took over all the basketball coverage before Shaka Smart arrived. Hey, y’all wanted more hoops coverage and I delivered it. Unfortunately, my postgame columns were… yeah, by year three you didn’t want them delivered anymore. That was a long six years on the hoops beat. Just know that while y’all joke about the NIT, it was a freaking blast to cover.
We all know you can’t work at Orangebloods and not write about football. As a student, I watched, from my seat inside the Rose Bowl, VY reach the end zone versus USC. A couple years later, I was writing columns about the football program and tickled people actually wanted to read them. I’m truly a sports junkie. I love all three big sports. But my heart beats a special way about baseball and my mind thinks, sees and analyzes it differently. I think we’re all given gifts and one of mine is evaluating baseball players and putting it into words. So, that’s what I’m going to be doing.
My last day as an Orangebloods employee will be June 30th. I’m excited and the same time nervous. That’s what happens when you’re 35 years old and you’ve known one job your entire professional life. I’m still young enough to see what else is out there, and I couldn’t resist the lingering urge to try something new and exciting before it was too late. Obviously, it had to be a truly special opportunity because I’m leaving an excellent one here.
Once my OB time has concluded, I’m joining Five Tool, one of the premier baseball outlets in the country and one of the biggest brands in amateur baseball. Among other things, I’ll be covering, evaluating, and ranking amateur prospects with the knowledge that what I print and what I say is going to be read by scouts, crosscheckers, general managers and almost every college coach in the state, which excites and creates a fire in me. I’m also going to help young players with Canes Southwest chase their dreams and help the organization expand its reach.
I love the idea of showing up to a ballpark knowing that each time I might see something special, something different, and what I share could help a kid receive a scholarship. I love the idea of sharing with families and young players things that could help them get recruited, the type of information some people take for granted. I love helping young players get in front of college coaches. I love being in the game and pushing it forward. Again, I think my gift and what I was meant to do is going to become my work and maybe one day that Theo Epstein vision could become realistic.
As for Orangebloods.com, it’s going to be just fine without my stories and reporting. Ketch didn’t build the thing everyone else tries to copy by accident. His constant pursuit of what’s next and ability to continuously raise the bar is admirable, and he’ll continue to do it. Orangebloods’ extension with Rivals positioned it to sprint out of the pandemic with the potential to be stronger than ever before. What’s next will again change the market. The price of this subscription hasn’t changed. Ever. And think about how much the product has. The care he has for this community is unmatched in the industry. This isn’t simply a business. It’s part of who he is. He cares. Deeply. And accepting status quo isn’t part of the conversation. Never has been.
Recruiting coverage keeps changing, and it’s not always done straight up and professionally. Make no mistake, no one can match @Suchomel’s experience, professionalism, reporting and writing. No one. I’ve lost track of the laughs and beers we’ve shared on recruiting road trips and those will forever be remembered fondly.
Many of y’all don’t realize how difficult it is to cover Texas Longhorns football at Orangebloods.com. The expectation is to break every single piece of news, never be wrong about anything ever, and have all the answers all the time. It takes a special reporter to do it. @Anwar Richardson has proven he’s that dude while being unafraid to share balanced opinions never compromised by burnt orange pom poms.
@Alex Dunlap has a gift. He sees things about football players that I see in baseball players. His evaluation eye is rare, and his combination of style and content can’t be found elsewhere. The amount of time he puts into his Deep Dig and his yearning passion when he turns on film are truly unique.
@Blake Skaggs reminds me a lot of myself when I first began. He has a fantastic work ethic and is unafraid to tackle anything his way. I’m excited he’s going to have the chance to grow his role and help shape the future of Orangebloods.
I’m not saying goodbye like I’m going to fall off the face of the Earth, but these guys deserve recognition and more than I could ever write in this space. But I am saying goodbye professional sense. These guys are forever friends. They have huge hearts. They’re great people. They work really hard, often seven days a week and sometimes in the face of thousands of angry subscribers because something out of their control happened on a field. I’ll play fantasy football with most of them. Eventually, Suchomel will stop being scared and join The League and it’ll be all of them. I’ll share beers and laughs and texts with all of them. I’m so proud to have published work here for so long and worked beside them. It has truly been an honor. This place is the standard for journalistic coverage of college athletics and an online community. Often imitated, never duplicated.
Eventually, I’ll get around to sharing some favorite moments, some examples of what I’ll miss good and bad, and some stories. Do I want to crash a Pinkerton’s trip in San Antonio for an OB happy hour? Hell yeah I do. Meeting and hanging out with this community in-person was one of the best parts of the gig and the tailgates are awesome. I’ve met OB members in Chicago, New York, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Omaha, Brooklyn, and the list goes on. I don’t plan on being a complete stranger. But for now, I must say my professional role at Orangebloods.com will soon come to an end. It’s time for a change and to see what else is out there. Thank you for changing my life. I hope I impacted yours in a good way.
And just to make sure you won’t be angry at me, here’s a photo from yesterday because I know you can’t be mad at my little men: